How One Man Changed the World of Wine

Category: Drink

Robert Parker is considered to be one of the most influential people in the wine world and is famous for creating the 100 point wine rating system. He has had an a huge affect on how people drink, talk about, and most importantly, make wine. There have been times he scored a wine above 95, and it sold out in a matter of days.

Robert Parker created The Wine Advocate, a bimonthly publication of wine ratings, and was a pioneer of using the 100-point scale to rate his wines based on the wine’s color, appearance, aroma, flavors, length of finish, and general impression including the wine's potential. His rating system however, has remained controversial as any argue that points are not a subjective way of judging wines. But he does also supply a few sentences of description to go with each wine that benefits in giving you more information about the attributes of the wine including body, levels of acidity, and types of aromas or flavors. These descriptions can be very helpful when it comes time to decide if you might like the wine. Even though Robert Parker himself emphasizes their importance, unfortunately many people ignore these descriptions and only pay attention to the score.

People’s tastes vary significantly. Robert Parker is famous for giving wines that are big and bold with higher alcohol and more ripe fruit flavors a high score. Just because that is what he likes, doesn’t mean those flavors are going to appeal to you. As we talked about in Why Wine Score are Useless, wine scores should be taken with a grain of salt and decisions on what wines to be should not be reliant on wine scores.

Image via @bordeauxwines

Robert Parker’s influence was able to infiltrate the winemaking regions in France with long traditions that were dictated by centuries of making wine in similar styles. Because he would rate wines that were higher in alcohol and with more ripe fruit flavors, some wineries in Bordeaux and all over the world started to make wines that would appeal to Robert Parker. If they were able to receive a high score from Robert Parker and The Wine Advocate, it would significantly increase sales of the wine and result in the winery being able to receive a higher price for the wine. Therefore, even wineries with deep roots of tradition would start to make wine to please one American with no formal wine training. That is why he is also extremely controversial and not well-liked especially within France.

Robert Parker has also had many positive influences on the wine world and one of the benefits to Robert Parker’s legacy is that he is breaking down old traditions that may not be relevant to the wines of today. For example, the Bordeaux classification system that was created in 1855 has been changed very little since it was created and still has a huge influence on the popularity and the price of wines coming out of Bordeaux. As Robert Parker’s influence became more widespread, people started to notice wines due to their scores rather than due to an outdated classification. Some may argue that scores are no better or even worse than a classification system for judging wines though.

Even though Robert Parker definitely has his critics and his fans, no matter what you think of him you cannot deny the impact he has been able to have on the world of wine. One indication of his power is that his nose and palate are insured for $1 million.